Saturday, November 9, 2013

And an afterword on this year's Irregular invitations . . . .

Running through the comments on this week's blog on the BSI dinner invitations, a bit from Scott Monty caused me to ruminate a little further upon the subject. Scott wrote:

"I think part of the excitement behind getting an invitation to the BSI Dinner is that it's an exclusive event. The moment you make it an open event, that's when the shine will wear off of the wonder of receiving such an invitation."

And that is the whole thing about the exclusive invitation. And the cryptic membership selection process whereby the Irregular-in-chief picks a handful of people to announce as members each year. The exclusivity, the haves-and-have-nots, the chance to rise and be among the . . .  dare I say it . . . elite. Big thrills all.

But it's such a big thrill that the "who gets made a member this year" list is the biggest news to come out of the BSI dinner every year. It seems to eclipse and predominate the whole of the hobby on that one night, even above Mr. Sherlock Holmes. 

And yet, the sister society of the Baker Street Irregulars, the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, seems to get by without all of that, existing just as long and just as well. Apparently Americans aren't nearly as well behaved as our cousins across the pond, and need more screening.

It would be very interesting to see what the Baker Street Irregulars of New York would look like without all the focus on who got invited and who got in. Who knows what might surface if all that mental energy got freed up for other uses?

I might have gotten off the subject with that thought, but Scott was also kind enough to put a link to my BSI blog in his "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" column, the link emanating from the words, "to sulk for those who don't receive an invitation." Which made me start to wonder if I hadn't received an invitation to the BSI dinner. Perhaps Scott knew something I didn't.

I checked the pile of mail that tends to grow in our entryway . . . you know how it is in the electronic age, all the good letters come via the internet. No invitation to be found. Which wouldn't be all that odd, if not for the fact that they used to send invitations to members of the Baker Street Irregulars. I say "used to," because I had heard a story last year of a certain Irregular who has often criticized the current management and got dropped from the mailing list, only to protest same. If the head of the Irregulars decided to clean out his Facebook friends, so to speak, I wouldn't be surprised if I got dropped from the membership mailing. I mean, have you read my blog? Heck, he could even be an Elementary fan. But no protests here. I didn't dig that deep into the mail pile looking for an invitation. A little bit busy this year.

Whatever my status of my membership in the Big Society of the Invited, I shall continue to be a (and perhaps the only) proponent of open membership for the Baker Street Irregulars. It's American's main Sherlockian society, I'm an American and a Sherlockian, and with even that little invested interest it just seems like the right idea to me.


  1. Invitations for members and second-time invitees were sent via email this time.

    1. And my e-mail stack is just as messy as my snail mail stack, but there it is! Thanks for pointing that out, Jacquelynn!

  2. Glad to know you got your invitation. I was about to offer to sneak you into the dinner in my suitcase, if necessary.

    I know we'll never share the same view of the status of the BSI's membership policy, but the great thing is that most of the action throughout the year happens at the local level, where most groups run a little differently.

    When you think about the spatial constraints of simply trying to seat members and their guests, it becomes pretty much preposterous to think that you can seat everyone who wants to attend a single dinner. Which is why I addressed the entirety of the Weekend rather than just the Dinner in my remarks. There's plenty for everyone.

    1. Room size is definitely a concern, as with any popular event. But if the will ever arises, I'm sure great Sherlockian minds would find a way. The Weekend has certainly evolved in interesting ways around that one unchangeable feature of the exclusive dinner, to be as accommodating as possible and keep the ritual.

  3. "...I had heard a story last year of a certain Irregular who has often criticized the current management and got dropped from the mailing list..."

    A friend in the BSI tells me that there are several prominent Irregulars who have been dropped from the mailing list, and have been off the mailing list for at least a few years, though he was unaware of any of them complaining about it. The irony is that Mr. Whelan's dire threat to excommunicate Irregulars who criticize the BSI would apply first to those individuals, who have already been exiled for all practical purposes. My impression is that such threats have been met with derision, especially by those who don't attend the dinner anymore anyway.

    More to your basic point, I am not sure that there is a good reason why a group that started out as a private dining club should feel any obligation to transform itself into a public society, but strikes me that the BSI may actually be caught between a desire to be exclusive and a need to expand more democratically. Consider Mr. Whelan's criterion of "non-Sherlockian exceptionality" (sic) for an invitation; the vast majority of invitees -- Irregulars and guests alike -- meet this criterion only by the most diminished standard of the exceptional, and this is either a sad reality for promoters of the elite private dining club model, or a positive sign of democratic expansion for the rest of us. Surely it's moving toward the latter, though perhaps not quickly enough for some. Still, and as you suggest, the entire BSI weekend is available to all, as are the conventions. I'm sure that an invitation to the BSI dinner creates a feeling of self-satisfaction, but it's an illusion, considering who does attend and who doesn't even get invited....

  4. I forwarded my invitations to David Dunning and Justin Kruger, since in my eyes the B.S.I. is really USI.